The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders — with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.
Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.
Download a 20-page PDF excerpt of the entire first chapter (3.3 MB).
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
160-page black & white 6.75" x 10.25" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-410-8
"An earlier stab than Little Nothings at comics-as-diary from the prolific cartoonist (and constantly hilarious comics-diarist) Lewis Trondheim, who draws himself as a slightly ruffled bird." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Lewis Trondheim’s Approximate Continuum Comics were some of the first autobiographical works to come out of France. This volume from Fantagraphics collects the first three chapters from The Nimrod (which were originally released in English as regular American floppies) as well as a bunch of previously untranslated stuff, plus a section at the back in which the real life characters pick fault with Trondheim’s depictions of themselves. David B. has got something to say, as does Trondheim’s Mum. How often does that happen?" – Gosh! Comics
"It’s a great little book, sharp and witty, and a good place for Trondheim newbies to dive in." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"On the graphic novel front, I am eager to read Approximate Continuum Comics, a new collection of Lewis Trondheim’s autobiographical pieces." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
"International comics master Trondheim delivers an excellent collection of autobiographical comics. It's a look inside a cartoonist's life. And trust me, it's far more interesting than that may sound." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
"I greatly enjoyed this English-language edition of a key Trondheim work, a collection of four comic book-sized memoir comics that blend fantasy and reality in an attempt to capture the way the mega-successful cartoonist regarded his life on either side of 30 years old. I found particularly affecting just how funny and poignant its set-pieces were, and how they might connect with lives that have very little big-picture overlap with Trondheim's own." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
128-page black & white/color 7" x 10" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-464-1
"...Take a Joke! [is] the latest and arguable greatest (and also last) collection of material taken from Johnny Ryan’s finished-for-now series, Angry Youth Comix." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"There’s all manner of potty-mouthed things you’d expect from Johnny Ryan." – Gosh! Comics
"The master of the yuks that disturb, Johnny Ryan is back with a new collection of his hilarious Angry Youth Comix. You'll laugh a lot and feel weird about doing it. Genius!" – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
224-page black & white 7" x 10.25" softcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-412-2
"...[C]ome on, if you found out that Robert Altman and Woody Allen had collaborated on a kids' TV show, you'd want to watch that too." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"...Fantagraphics collects Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez's all-ages graphic novel Yeah! for the first time in a decade. This title was initially published on Wildstorm [Homage, actually – Ed.] and is about the foibles of an intergalactic Josie and the Pussycats-style girl group." – Cyriaque Lamar, io9
"...[T]he new Yeah! book... collect[s] the short-lived all ages series that Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez collaborated on, about an all-girl rock group that’s popular throughout the galaxy, but not at home..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"Back in 1999/2000 Peter Bagge (Hate) and Gilbert Hernandez (Love & Rockets) teamed up for Yeah! – a nine-issue all-ages series about an intergalactically famous girl group who were totally unknown on their home planet Earth." – Gosh! Comics
"I’m curious to see if this re-release... title finds a new audience from quite a different publisher, one more typical of the creators." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
"The summer of Peter Bagge continues! Yeah! collects the comic series from years ago that was a collaboration between Bagge and Hernandez (Love & Rockets). The result is a rollicking intergalactic Josie & The Pussycats-esque all-ages yarn." – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
"This... feels like a notably sturdy volume and seems priced more cheaply than anyone could be expected to find copies of the original funnybooks. It also and probably needed to be re-presented to its potential audience for folks to pay it any attention, in a format that many young readers now prefer. I'm happy to see these comics again." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Approximate Continuum Comics collects some nice autobiographical early work by Lewis Trondheim, previously seen in part in The Nimrod and Expo 2000... Take a Joke collects (among other things) the remainder of Johnny Ryan’s Angry Youth Comix, covering its fascinating lunge into increasingly horror-informed material... And Yeah! collects the entirety of a 1999-2000... outer space pop band series from writer Peter Bagge and artist Gilbert Hernandez, in b&w..."
• Review: "It's a smart-looking book, and the choice to go color-free really allows Gilbert Hernandez's cartooning to shine. But make no mistake: this is vintage Bagge. Sure, we're minus the delicious Buddy Bradley angst, and the goofiness is rated PG, but the increasingly ridiculous situations that the girls of Yeah!... get themselves into [are] very much in Bagge's wheelhouse.... Yeah! also has in spades something that HATE! rarely, if ever, did: cuteness. Some of the hijinx and situations that the band finds itself in are, well, adorable. Hernandez's pen is as much to credit for that as is Bagge's turn to the 'pop side.'" – Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
• Review: "This slim graphic novel [Toys in the Basement] is nominally for children, but the art of the Frenchman Blanquet takes a children's story to an unexpected level.... This surrealist book by writer-artist Blanquet brings to the young reader a simple message: retribution will come, and you never know from which side." – Ray Garraty, Endless Falls Up
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Dave McKean about his new erotic graphic novel Celluloid: "The depressing majority of comics seem to be about violence of one sort or another, yet how much violence does the average person have to deal with in their everyday lives?... But sex is happily part of most people's lives, and crosses the mind most days, I would say, even if it's just watching your partner get out of bed in the morning."
• Interview:Time Out Chicago's Web Behrens goes back for a second helping with Paul Hornschemeier: "'I remember — well, I don’t actually remember this, but my mom told me this story many times: I was walking with her when I was little, 3 or 4. I looked up at her and said, 'Mom, sometimes I miss you even when you’re here.' What a sad — well, it’s cute, but gosh, I was lonely even then, walking with my mom! It’s just kind of how I’m wired."
• Panel:The Daily Cross Hatch begins transcribing the MoCCA panel on political cartooning that Tim Kreider was on: "My early cartoons were surreal non-sequiturs, but I feel like I was kind of conscripted into duty as a political cartoonist. I didn’t feel like the Bush years were just the opposition in charge. It felt like a true aberration in history, like the McCarthy years. It’s something I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut about. Once it was over, I was very, very happy to quit, but I wasn’t going to quit before George did."
Before her comics were serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (“Watergate Sue,” 2007) or released by Fantagraphics Books (Artichoke Tales, 2010), Megan Kelso was a classic DIY cartoonist/publisher, who crafted and self-published her popular minicomic Girlhero from 1991 to 1996.
Queen of the Black Black, which collects these early Girlhero strips (as well as a few from other sources) and was originally published in a limited edition 12 years ago (now long out of print), provides an engrossing chronicle of an ambitious young cartoonist carefully developing her own unique style and approach.
In this volume, Kelso scrutinizes bicycle messengers, venereal diseases, infidelity, unwanted pregnancies, temporary work assignments, family reunions, and classroom daydreams in subtle and unexpected manners, setting herself technical challenges such as depicting music in comics (the virtuoso “The Daddy Mask,” with its sensuous gray swirls of sound on the page), integrating lettering into artwork in creative ways, and generally working her way toward what would become her mature style.
The title story, “Queen of the Black Black,” rendered in lush gray tones, explores the fraught relationship between the ageing, demanding queen of a fairy-tale realm and a hornblower whom she takes under her wing.
There is even a vintage “Artichoke Tale,” predating Kelso recently released graphic novel by a decade and a half. (“I am planning to do a whole book of artichoke tales in the future,” she wrote presciently in her original story notes.)
Queen of the Black Black shows the first flowering (or sprouting) of a major cartooning talent, and its return to print (fully redesigned) is welcome news for the many readers delighted by Kelso’s subsequent graphic novels.
Download a 13-page PDF excerpt (<1 MB) with two complete stories.
• Review: "Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley kicks off Fantagraphics’ latest series of vintage newspaper strips... About halfway through the [first story] arc, ...Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse begins to develop the characteristics that would sustain it for decades to come: a fast pace, frequent narrow escapes, and an industrious hero who throws himself fully into every endeavor, in ways that both get him into trouble and help get him out. ...Gottfredson... took the broad idea of a good-natured mouse and sketched in his own attitudes about hard work, courage, and the importance of having reliable friends when the jams get especially sticky." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez’s latest book Love from the Shadows is a confounding hybrid, inserting Love And Rockets’ watermelon-chested, lisping Fritz into a violent dream-novel that combines the fluid reality of Luis Buñuel with the two-fisted crime sagas of Jim Thompson. ...[T]he beauty of comics as a medium is that it invites re-reading; and Hernandez’s mastery makes Love from the Shadows easy to pore back over, savoring how its meaning shifts from page to page." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there is Gilbert Hernandez.... Now he returns to his eccentric sideline to translate the wildly experimental independent/exploitation/sexploitation tale Love from the Shadows into a stunning graphic rollercoaster ride of broken families, counter-culture angst, embezzlement, greed madness, obsession, charlatanry, psychics and mysterious aliens in possibly the greatest tribute to scurrilous lowbrow movie maestro Russ Meyer ever seen." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Speaking of confounding comics, Leslie Stein’s bizarre Eye of the Majestic Creature collects the first four issues of Stein’s self-published comic.... Stein riffs on loneliness, relationships, creativity, family, and intoxication via cutely psychedelic art and short vignettes that are heavy on fancy and light on explanation. At times the book comes from so deep inside Stein’s head that it reads almost like notes for a comic, not a finished work. But then Stein pivots into a moment or image of deep emotional resonance and beauty... and the loose narrative style pays off. These four issues do get better as they go, so consider this a promising introduction to a potentially major new talent." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Peter Bagge is back... with Hate Annual #9, the latest in his yearly reports on the life of his slacker-turned-entrepreneur character Buddy Bradley. Usually Bagge fills out the Hate annuals with strips he’s drawn for other publications throughout the year, but #9 is nearly all Buddy, and it’s one of the best Bradley stories in years... The story is wonderfully digressive in the best Bagge tradition, too..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "An overt attempt to bring back the silly rock-’n’-roll fun of Josie & The Pussycats and Jem & The Holograms, Yeah! follows the adventures of a girl-group that’s wildly popular on other planets, but can’t get any attention on Earth. ...Yeah! is... a pleasure to read, with an anything-goes storytelling style and an infectious affection for pop music, as well as for pop culture about pop music." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...[T]he comics in Approximate Continuum constitute a highly amusing portrait of that mostly under-explored time in a person's life when things become more important and more ridiculous in equal measure and we find ourselves constantly and even quietly adjusting to wholesale changes in life and attitude and orientation that we once had hopes to master. It speaks to how well-observed the book is that you could pick it up sans context of any kind and find much to enjoy. ...Approximate Continuum Comics consistently hits the pleasure points afforded by great cartooning and a wicked sense of humor, and should be fair comfort to anyone that feels they're at a point in their life when they need to give themselves a good talking-to." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Even if you’ve read the first volume [of The Steve Ditko Archives], Unexplored Worlds offers plenty more surprises.... While the 'twists' rarely match up to the initial imagination of any given piece, Ditko’s art is solid throughout. As always, Fantagraphics’ top-notch presentation makes the publisher the go-to stop for comics preservation." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Interview:At the official R. Crumb website, Alex Wood quizzes Crumb on various historical and pop-cultural figures, from Obama to Tommy James and the Shondells to his underground comix contemporaries to Mozart: "I love the movie Amedeus about him, but the actual music, nnnaaaah."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch continues serializing Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Gahan Wilson: "...[T]he world for a kid is often very scary. It’s a huge challenge, and it is often scary. I mean, people die, and what the hell is that all about? I explore that sort of thing in Nuts. The stuff that happens to grownups happens to kids, too — these amazing, awful things. And these often terrific things. And they have to somehow wrap themselves around it."
• Feature: The guest contributor to this week's "What Are You Reading?" column at Robot 6 is Dave McKean (who, with his erotic graphic novel Celluloid coming out, weighs in with his thoughts on the erotic work of his sometime-collaborator Alan Moore, Lost Girls)
On his blog, Drew Friedman posts: "My illustration for an article in the latest Billboard magazine about late night talk shows competing for musical guests, re-casting the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Left to right: Paul (Jimmy Fallon), Ringo (George Lopez), George (David Letterman), John (Conan O'Brien)."
Jason reports on his blog that he is finishing up the lettering on "Tom Waits on the Moon," the last story to be completed for his next book Athos in America. "No, there is no Tom Waits and no moon in the story. Possibly there is a guy called Tom," he says. Dang. In an earlier post he says he's bringing the pages to Paris tomorrow for scanning — then Hubert colors them, Jason draws the cover, and that's a wrap for the art on the book!
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